UN body urges support for treaty regulating private military, security companies

30 April 2010

A United Nations expert body is urging broad support for the creation of a new global treaty to regulate the activities of private military and security contractors, stressing the need for strict control mechanisms for this “highly specific and dangerous trade.”

The five-member UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, created in 2005, is currently drafting a possible new legally binding instrument that aims to set minimum global standards for States to regulate private military and security companies’ activities at the international level.

“It’s high time to close the legal gap for private security contractors,” said José Luis Gómez del Prado, who currently chairs the Working Group.

“Minimum international standards must be established to regulate the activities of these very special kind of companies at the international level. It will be difficult, but it can be done.

“Given the character of this new industry and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights, private military and security companies’ activities cannot be considered as normal commercial commodities but as a highly specific and dangerous trade requiring strong control mechanisms,” he stated in a news release.

The Working Group, which has been monitoring their impact on human rights and their lack of accountability, stressed that there is a “clear gap” regarding the jurisdiction applicable to private military and security contractors.

“Employees of private military and security companies cannot usually be considered as mercenaries, and their activities are not covered by the Geneva Conventions or the International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries,” stated Mr. Gómez del Prado.

He added that a number of inherently State functions, particularly in the military and security fields, should not be outsourced to private military and security companies.

Support for a legally binding treaty has been expressed by regional bodies, such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, citing concerns at the lack of transparency and accountability of private military and security companies.

The Working Group is calling for support for the treaty in a letter addressed to all Member States. It will submit its report on the progress achieved in elaborating the draft legal instrument to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in September.

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